To the international arts community and the different local funding bodies and governments.
The impact of the current crisis is becoming clearer with every hour, with the exception of how long it may last. As is the realization that it will be the most vulnerable, who will suffer first and most. In the case of the arts community, these will be the individual, self-employed, freelance artists. In the past days in countries such as Austria, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK and Canada valuable initiatives have already been taken, but there is more to be done.
We have an important proposal to add to this, for which we would like to create a large, international consensus so that it is not only left to individual or local initiatives.
We don’t believe it should be the responsibility of the individuals who have had an engagement canceled to look for compensation. Since this would only imply more work, a lot of administration and probably long waiting times to receive it. This added labor and uncertainty will only put more stress and pressure on those who are already vulnerable.
Instead of a trickle-down effect that puts the burden on the most vulnerable individuals, the burden should be passed on up the economic ladder to those who have the resources to carry it. The governments and funding bodies must allow the venues and companies to cancel or postpone existing events or projects without asking for their funding back. The venues and festivals must pay the companies and artists they invited. The companies must pay the individual artists they employ, also when only a freelance basis.
We thus propose that all funded institutions and projects pay out all the engagements they have committed to (in written or unwritten form) within the original time frame agreed.
Exceptions will always be possible as in the case of freelance artists engaging their peers or for organizations or projects whose own existence would be threatened. But these exceptions need to be fairly negotiated with everyone involved. If projects are postponed, they will also have to be renegotiated again and thus do not simply compensate for the loss of income in the present but also for future work and time to be spent.
We believe this proposal will save of a lot of unnecessary work and money since it will avoid new, complex administrative procedures as the money that will be distributed in this way was already allocated in the first place.
We ask for the official bodies to implement and facilitate this proposal and for all organizations, big or small to apply it in their own organizations. We are happy to note that many organizations have already committed to this publicly in the past days.
We also realize this proposal only deals with existing engagements and if this crisis lasts long enough so that no new engagements can be made, a secondary, more fundamental support system, such as for instance the proposal for a basic income which could also be applied to other sectors, need to be put in place. However we believe this proposal would solve a lot of the most urgent problems for many people and it would buy everyone the necessary time to create larger and more durable support systems of solidarity.
Guy Cools, Freelance Dance Dramaturg, Vienna, Austria